The other day I was involved in a thread discussion in a United Methodist Clergy group. The subject of that discussion is irrelevant for my present purposes. If you really feel the need to know, ask me.
In this discussion, a friend – no, an acquaintance – no, a colleague – maybe – a fellow UM clergyperson wrote this: “If you do not follow the rules, then you have lost all integrity.”
Whoa, I thought. I am, apparently, and have always been, low on integrity.
This won’t surprise those of you who know me, but I push at rules. Over the years I have come to respect the need for rules, and the benefits.
I still have within me, though, a desire, an urge, to push against the rules, the norms, the status quo.
Which is one of the reasons I read as someone who, according to my colleague, has lost an integrity.
In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus is almost constantly breaking rules. When I was younger and more of a mind to break rules just because they were rules, I read Jesus this way, too.
And it is possible to read the gospels this way.
I have grown up. I know longer believe that all rules were made to be broken. I understand the benefit, even the need, of rules and standards.
As a matter of fact, I now tend to read Jesus as having this same kind of attitude toward rules.
I will probably always tend to read Jesus favorably to the way I understand and work in the world.
If Jesus matters to you, I expect you do this, too.
You may suggest that we ought to interpret our own lives in terms of Jesus rather than the other way around. I would agree that this is an admirable goal. In fact, it may be a good way of identifying true disciples.
But I am pretty sure that before we proclaim too loudly that we are more like Jesus than someone else is, we do well to investigate which Jesus we are comparing ourselves to. More often than not, I fear, we will find that we will find ourselves looking down on others by comparing them to the Jesus that we have made look an awful lot like the ideal version of ourselves.